Comox Valley Senior Support helps older adults who are experiencing isolation and loneliness, or who are feeling vulnerable due to challenging situations. Most of our programs and services are delivered by screened, trained volunteers, many of them seniors themselves.
In 1990 a group of seniors and professionals identified the need for affordable counselling for seniors in the Comox Valley. Choosing ‘peer counselling’ as a viable way of offering emotional support to seniors, and using the curriculum developed by the Gerontology Association of Victoria (Honore France), the first group of peer counsellors was trained in September 1991 and service to seniors began soon after.
The group became known as Comox Valley Senior Peer Counselling Society. From the onset, the mission was to provide emotional support to isolated seniors in their homes. The mandate was to provide listening and supportive services that would decrease the isolation of seniors and fill the gap in existing services to the frail elderly in the Comox Valley. There was an understanding that these seniors would be identified initially by the professional community and by those working in volunteer groups to support seniors and eventually by the larger community.
Quickly the mandate of the program expanded to include support to seniors struggling with transportation, housing, elder abuse, information and education issues, resources, and other services. Except for paid staff to coordinate the activities of the Society, the majority of front-line services to seniors were delivered by screened and trained volunteers. This has remained a constant throughout the evolution of the organization.
In 2016 the organization dropped the word ‘counselling’ from its name, replacing it with ‘support’ (CV Senior Peer Support) to clarify that emotional support to seniors is the work of the Society and not ‘counselling’ which is a professional designation requiring specific training. In May 2018 the Society formally changed its name to Comox Valley Senior Support Society. This was done to reflect the broad range of programs and services the Society offers to Comox Valley seniors as well as to acknowledge that some of our volunteers are not seniors and that younger volunteers are also welcome as support workers.
Although the mandate of the Society may have broadened over the years, the overall philosophy of ‘people helping people’ and the practice of training and deploying volunteers as the helpers have not changed.